Reporting Jason A. Churchill
Yes, the Seattle Seahawks fell to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday and dropped to 4-1. There will be no perfect season, the Hawks will not simply walk all over the rest of the NFL and waltz into the Super Bowl and blow out the AFC Champion. There are, of course, exactly zero reasons to fret.
This team has not played great football yet, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They’ve yet to piece together a complete game where the defense did its thing and the offense was solid throughout, and they’re still atop the NFC West with wins over the San Francisco 49ers at home and at the Houston Texans. The loss to the Colts, a playoff team from a year ago and one that dominated the Niners on the road, was a game that yielded just a few plays too few for the Seahawks to win.
All week on the Steve Sandmeyer Show, Steve, Bill Swartz and I discussed — scratch that — nitpicked at the team’s struggles last week. The defensive backs didn’t communicate well, leading to big plays, and the Colts pieced together two long touchdown drives in succession in the second half — 24 plays, 166 yards in total — that set the tone for the rest of the game. The offense had problems finishing drives, too, settling for four Steven Hauschka field goals. Could these be legitimate long-term concerns? Sure. Is there any evidence to this point that these problems will continue? Absolutely not.
The Seahawks have to go out and show that Sunday versus the Tennessee Titans, but nothing has changed. This still is the league’s best defense, led by the best set of defensive backs in football and a defensive line that is now seven deep, including three above-average pass rushers in Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
This still is a team without both starting tackles that has somehow found a way to avoiding folding up like a Walmart-brand tuxedo. All of that, plus Sydney Rice may or may not be fully healthy, Zach Miller didn’t play last week, and the Seahawks still are 4-1 heading into a very winnable game at home.
Do they have things to clean up starting this Sunday at CenturyLink? No question about it. Do they need to get healthy before the toughest part of the schedule starts in about a month? Certainly. Are there any reasons at all to believe this team has somehow taken a step back or that other teams have ‘figured them out?’ Nope.
Seattle, there is no ‘problem’ with your Seahawks. Furthermore, there are reasons to believe they’ll prove they are the same Super Bowl favorites they appeared to be in Week 2, Sunday versus the visiting Titans.
When the Seahawks have the ball
The Titans have a balanced defense, ranking in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks and No. 3 in the league in turnover ratio — one ahead of Seattle. Statistically, though, they appears to be a team the Hawks should be able to run the ball against, as evidenced by the 4.3 average yards per carry opponents have posted.
Marshawn Lynch should have a bigger day than he did a week ago when he rushed 17 times for his first 100-yard game of the season, and the read-option should be effective when Russell Wilson keeps it, too.
The Titans spread out their pass rush, boasting five players with two or more sacks and three players with at least three, but they do not possess the dominant pass-rush specialist the Colts (Robert Mathis) and Texans (J.J. Watt) do.
With Unger back in the fold, too, Wilson is likely to have more time to set up and throw down the field, on top of Lynch having some room to run.
When the Titans have the ball
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 247 yards last week, and ran for 50 more. He did so at home, however, and despite the Kansas City Chiefs’ much-improved defense, that isn’t the same as playing in Seattle against the Legion of Boom.
The Titans do have weapons, in running back Chris Johnson, who showed how explosive he can be when he took a short pass from Fitzpatrick and skated for 49 yards and a score last week, and wide receivers Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright. Hybrid H-Back Delanie Walker has 16 receptions, including four versus the Chiefs.
The Titans problem is that there are few running lanes for Johnson these days — he’s averaging 3.1 yards per carry in 2013. The former All-Pro has just 38 yards on 25 carries the past two weeks, and there’s no chance the Seahawks don’t look to take away the Titans run game and force Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker’s backup, to beat them.
Bobby Wagner is likely out with an ankle sprain, but K.J. Wright should be just fine at middle linebacker and Bruce Irvin could be an even bigger factor this week than last when he recorded a sack, four tackles — one for loss — and a quarterback hit, on top of playing coverage linebacker some.
Watch for Luke Willson to possibly become more involved in the passing game, as Swartz noted on the show this week, and that could remain true even if Miller ends up playing. Jermaine Kearse, he of the 50 percent touchdown-to-receptions ratio, could get more looks, too, especially if Rice continues to struggle to get open.
- Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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